The World Trade Organization and Battle of Seattle
 'There's a line of cops outside of the mill 
There's a right to obey, and a right to kill' 
- Zack De La Rocha, Rage Against the Machiine
can we beat the multi-nationals?

What is the World Tryants' Organization? What does it do?

The W.T.O. is basically an organization that seeks to "liberalize" world trade. It is a body of some 135 some odd member nations, whose representatives are unelected bureaucrats (of course) who deliberate in secret and whose judgements can effect millions upon millions of peoples' lives, not to mention the entire planet's ecosystem. It is a semi-legislative semi-judicial body has immense power at its fingertips; it can make deals on trade and make rulings on cases brought before them that deal with the trade agreements it has ratified - and best of all, it is accountable to NO ONE!!!!

"Liberalize"? What's that mean?

When people (especially bourgeois economists and capitalist media mouthpieces) use words such as "liberalization" and "globalization" they mean that capital and goods can and should have the freedom to move around the globe with impunity. More specifically, "liberalizing" a country to "free trade" ahhh... the joys of tear gas democracy! means that protective tarrifs, pesky environmental laws and those goddamn workers' rights bills all go down the toilet because they are impediments to "free trade".

In fact, this is exactly what the W.T.O. is supposed to do. The W.T.O. was formed in 1995, during the "Uruguay Round" of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). The W.T.O.'s job is to eliminate "non-tariff barriers to trade." In otherwords, it is expressly designed to benefit the large industrial powers and their local ruling class (i.e. corporations) at the expense of worker's rights and environmental safeguards worldwide.{1}

For smaller corporations and domestic industries, particularly in the (permanently) "developing countries," free trade means that larger firms will come in, outcompete them or buy them off and shut them down - due to their larger amount of capital. "Free competition" capitalism naturally leads to monopoly or oligopoly capitalism, as history has shown us in the 1900s and even today with the Mobil-Exxon and Time Warner-A.O.L. mergers.

Free trade means that millions of peasants will be pushed out of the cash-crop business. For example, in Colombia farmers have resorted to growing coca (as in cocaine) to make their living because they'd been out-produced by Western multinationals. The corporations have more capital and can buy larger plots of land, better equipment, and therefore grow more. The price of the product drops because there is so much being produced, and voalah! the farmers are out of business. Since coca, marijuana and poppy seeds (for opium and heroin) are illegal, the money is far better than the meager profits to be derived from competing with gigantic corporations. Not all farmers will resort to drug trafficking to make ends meet, but Underneath this robocop shell, I'm actually a very sensitive and caring individual. certainly large numbers will. The other option is to pack their bags, move to the city slums, and look for whatever job they can get that will feed them. "What a wonderful world..."

What does "free trade" mean for workers? Lower wages, less benefits, more hours, increased workloads and so on and so forth. "Free trade" forces workers into a "race to the bottom" on a global scale. Companies can now, thanks to the "wonders of our globalized economy", move their factories and their capital to places where workers are cheaper and their governments more repressive. Corporations operate not for human needs, but for profit. Therefore, where ever there are lower wages, less financial restrictions, more oppressive governments and looser environmental regulations, that's where the businesses will go. Countries are forced to compete against eachother, for the worst human rights records, the worst labor laws (if there are any) and the most disgusting environmental abuses so that they will be the "chosen ones" for foreign investment. The W.T.O. and the capitalist system that spawned it are constantly searching for new markets and cheaper labor, and force everyone into a "race for the bottom."

A company, say Ford, can say to their workers "If you don't shut the hell up with this 'health benefits' crap, we'll just shut down this plant and head to Mexico. So get back to work!" The massive expansion of U.S. trade with Mexico has left workers on both sides of the border with lower real wages than they had in the 1970s.{2} Behold the miracle of N.A.F.T.A. (North American Free Trade Agreement)!

In all the cases brought before the W.T.O., the W.T.O. has ruled in favor of the corporations! When a suit was brought against the giant sea turtles protected by the Endangered Species Act by commercial shrimp fishing interests, those turtles didn't stand a chance! "HAHAHAHA!! Isn't this new era of 'globalization' wonderful for all?" When Venezuelan oil interests challenged the Environmental Protection Agency's air quality standards for gasoline, the oil interests won. (By the way, the U.S gets more oil from Venezuela than it does from the Middle East! A little fact to keep in mind when you think about why the U.S. is stepping up its war against the "narco-guerillas" in neighboring Colombia.) When U.S. cattle producers brought a suit against the European Union's ban on hormone-treated (or should I say infested) beef, the cattle producers won.{3}

Smile, ya rich bastard

A Tool for the Global Powers

Many argue that U.S. national sovereignty and "national interests" will be infringed upon by European firms and cheap labor from other countries. The fact is that the U.S. is "globocop" and it dominates the political and economic landscape of the world. The U.S. has filed more than 1/3 of the 170 complaints the W.T.O. has heard and has won 90% of them. Japan, Europe and the U.S. use the W.T.O. to pressure one another in trade wars and to keep developing nations in line. In a recent article, Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman quote a typical W.T.O. document: "Quite often, governments use the W.T.O. as a welcomed external constraint on their policies: 'we can't do this because it would violate the W.T.O. agreements.'"{4}

Even some delegates from the W.T.O. were against it and realized to what extent the W.T.O. is a tool of the global powers. According to one eyewitness:
	None of them [the delegates] had anything favorable to say about 
	the WTO. Two delegates from the Caribbean were angry about job 
	loss. One delegate from Peru took a bullhorn and got up on a car 
	and spoke to the protestors against the World Trade Organization. 
	He said it hurts the workers and farmers. I interviewed a 
	Norwegian guy from Greenpeace. Totally against it. Even a 
	delegate from Holland said it had hurt the farmers there. He said 
	though it was supposedly democratic, the U.S., England, Canada, 
	and a few others get together and decide what they want to do. 
	Then they ask the rest of the countries to vote and if they vote 
	wrong they threaten, "You won't get loans," or whatever.{5}
So it's not a matter of "national sovereignty" or protectionism (protecting one's own industries against foreign competitors via tariffs, etc.) but of who will suffer the dire consequences of unrestrained competition? Who will benefit? The national elites of each country will benefit when they allow foreign capital to rape and pillage their country's resources. Who will suffer? The "resources", i.e., human laborers, the environment, etc.

Which nations are militarily and economically strong enough to boss the other nations around? Answer that question and you will find out that they are the world's rulers. They decide what's on the agenda and what's off. The W.T.O. is the epitome of the New World Order, where the New World gives the orders.

the Battle of Seattle - What Really Happened

During the protests, the media showed images of anarchist morons breaking Starbucks windows and stuff like that and then they would show the cops gassing people and using violence against the "anti-trade protestors" or the "rioters," so as to justify the police brutality.

In fact what happened was the cops fired first. An eyewitness account:
	Up until Tuesday at 4:00 PM there was one window broken 
	in the whole city - a McDonald's window. This compares 
	favorably to a typical rock concert, let alone a 
	demonstration of people who were non-violently barring 
	entry to the World Trade Center. 
The witness continues:
	At this point, a new group of police - tactical police 
	- moved in and started gassing people and shooting rubber 
	bullets. Is it any surprisethat people got mad?... The 
	police instigated these kids, plain and simple...{6}
Now that's what I call a Trenchcoat Mafia; 
a Mafia protecting the interests of organized crime 
- capitalism!The cops were extremely vioolent and hostile, beating anyone they could get their clubs on. They even beat a delegate from an NGO (Non-Governmental Organization) who was an observer and came out to inform the crowd of what was going on inside. He was attacked by plainclothes cops and SPD (Seattle Police Department) riot cops, and arrested for "inciting a riot".{7}

The police serve the interests of the ruling class, the capitalists, and so does the media. The media played up the cops actions as "justified" because of the acts of a few (idiotic) individuals. Because of the actions of a few moronic anarchists, the demonstration lost some credibility as a meaningful protest. The actions of the vandals served to justify the police repression, and the subsequent establishment of a "no protest" zone and a curfew, essentially voiding the Constitution for 50 square blocks.

When a the steelworkers union began to march from a rally on the docks to downtown,
	[a]lmost immediately, the SPD in full riot gear headed 
	us off and began firing pepper spray bombs, and concussion 
	grenades directly into the group of people (easily 2-5,000).
	I cannot stress enough that we were absolutely non-violent,
	that the SPD attack was unprovoked, and that there were no 
	warnings. While the SPD was firing, they also began to move 
	in on us, dividing the group up then chased us for eight 
	blocks or so, gassing and bombing the entire way.{8}
Talk back to the pig! He deserves it!On November 29th, after the police dispersed the protestors, they retreated outside of the "no protest" zone. The police phalanx followed them into a residential neighborhood, gassed, clubbed, pepper sprayed and fired rubber bullets at anyone in the neighborhood. A crowd of approximately 300 Capitol Hill residents banded together and shouted, "We live here! We live here". An S.P.D. sergeant ordered the crowd to disperse. Seconds later, a volley of tear gas and stun grenades were fired into the crowd. During the final neighborhood sweep, 50 cops and an Armored Personel Carrier launched tear gas and fired rubber bullets into the crowd, pushing them to Harvard Ave, where bar patrons caught inside choked on gas.{9}

Watching the demonstrations and the clashes with the police, I had a hard time remembering that this was America and not Iraq, North Korea, China, the Soviet Union or some other repressive regime. The cops were dressed in all black, no badges, plastic shields, helmets, massive boots and were armed to the teeth with tear gas, 3 or 4 foot long clubs, APCs (Armored Personnel Carriers), pepper spray cans the size of fire extinguishers, rubber bullets, wood bullets, marker dye for later harrassment, a helicopter with a turret, flash bangs and concussion grenades. In essence, a totally inappropriate arsenal for handling a peaceful protest.{10}

Pax AmericanaNot only did people protest when the cops brutalized them in the streets, they protested on the way to and even inside jail. Some protestors who were arrested for protesting peacefully (but not in the "no-protest zone") were taken the brig at Sand Point military base. When they arrived, they demanded legal representation. Denied this right, they began a solidarity action of remaining aboard the busses and jumping up and down in unison to "rock the boat". In order to clear the bus, the cops sprayed mace inside. One detainee was carried by the hair to the jail. He was later thrown into solitary confinement, without his shoes or socks. A person in a cell adjacent to his was bound painfully by the arms and legs to a wheelchair. Another person had a hood put over his head, with a hole on top into which hot-pepper solution was poured, knocking him unconscious.{11} Isn't democracy wonderful?

The level of repression that the authorities used to "disperse" the demonstrators was astounding. People's gas masks and cell phones were confiscated because the cell phones were being used to coordinate the activists in police evasion.Police State - American style! The King County Sheriff, the the Port of Seattle Police, the Federal Protective Service and one other unnamed agency were involved, as well as the Secret Service, according to police spokesman, Randy Huberick.{12} In fact the Secret Service was directing the entire operation. The National Guard was sent in, according to Bill Clinton to "restrain the police", but in reality to lend them a hand (and a club), and my friend's father has a friend in the National Guard. According to him, the Secret Service ordered him to clear the streets using "any means necessary." Why would the Secret Service say such a thing? Because Bill Clinton wanted to preserve his credibility as a leader who had control over his subjects. How would it look to the W.T.O.'s delegates, men and women from countries like Indonesia, China, Haiti and Mexico whose governments slaughter women, children, priests, nuns and teachers like swatting flies if the President of the world's Superpower cannot keep his "peeps on the smackdown" (people on lockdown)? How embarassing would this historic meeting of global crooks be if it was interrupted and discredited by THOUSANDS of people from previously politically defunct groups (as far as the mainstream media was concerned) like hippies, young people, "Gen-Xers", and (the anti-Christ) LABOR UNIONS!!!

the Effects of the Protest

Fuck the cops! Let's protest!! Despite the police repression, despite their brutality, the protestors persevered. The media was taken aback by this display of anti-globalization sentiment. Why? Because for years they've been ranting about how wonderful the global economy is, how much better things are for everyone now that we no longer have to worry about the "International Communist Conspiracy" and the how are on the brink of a new era of peace and prosperity for all. The media was utterly shocked when 30,000 to 70,000 people protested against the W.T.O. and all it stands for because they believed their own lies, and they couldn't understand how anyone could have a different opinion on globalization.

Bill Clinton was forced to shed crocodile tears over the environment, human rights and labor rights because of the awesome display of popular outrage. Clinton was basically preserving Al Gore's pro-labor credentials, even though Clinton refused to sign a bill that would outlaw the use of scabs to break strikes, has always backed N.A.F.T.A., and has consistently backed the W.T.O.

Labor unions made up the bulk of the demonstration, and it's about damn time working people started sticking up for their rights! The presence of the unions is what made Clinton jump on the labor bandwagon and sign bills outlawing slave-labor and child labor, despite the fact that both are practiced in the United States; the former in prisons across the country, the latter in the the approximately 11,000 American sweatshops.{13}

The picture says it allMany people who went to the demonstration came away from it with very different ideas about the world. I think a lot of demonstrators were appalled and surprised at how biased the media's coverage of what can only be described as a "police riot". Everyone (including I) was totally shocked at the behavior of the cops. Protestor Randy Stucker saw the police surround one man lying face-down on the pavement. "They must have shot 40 bullets at him, right into him, trying to make him move. ... It made me want to cry. They looked just like Nazi storm troopers. They didn't say a word. They just started shooting."{14} There were people at the protest from other countries; French farmers, South African workers and even Chinese workers. People organized solidarity actions on the buses after the cops denied them their rights. Tear gas, pepper spray, flash bombs, concussion grenades, clubs, boots, rubber and even wood bullets could not deter these people from protesting the expansion of free trade, of global capitalism, of the New World Order.

Amazingly, the protestors won! The W.T.O. conference was an utter failure and an embarassment for the Clinton administration, who hoped to avoid any public outcry and keep the cogs of global capitalism running smoothly and to make this conference the Crown Jewel of Clinton's millennial administration. The Chief of the Seattle Police resigned in disgrace because of the outrage of the "police riot" in Seattle. The collapse of the W.T.O. was a direct result of the protest. Delegates from smaller countries were emboldened to challlenge the Great Powers, seeing they had thousands of protestors just outside to back them up. The state-corprate power nexus suffered a sound defeat, the first in America for many, many, many years.

I think (and I hope) that the "Battle of Seattle" signals a new beginning of class struggle in the United States, and all over the world as well. If class consciousness has developed to the point where tens of thoudsands of American workers band together and brave the cops because they realize doing so is in their own class interests, then we are moving in the right direction.

But with this new burst of energy from the working class, we must be cautious of making old mistakes. Mistakes like backing the Democractic Party as the answer to any of the problems of the working class. The problem with democracy under capitalism is that democracy is limited to the narrow bounds of exploitation; therefore, in reality, the two are completely incompatible with one another. After all, who signed welfare reform? Who signed the "Defense of Marriage Act", banning gay marriages? Who bombed a medicine factory in the Sudan just to look tough on terrorism? Who bombed Yugoslavia into a pulp, violating the very same standards of international law and human rights they claimed to protect? Who passed N.A.F.T.A.? And who has consistently backed the W.T.O.? We cannot afford to play into the hands of the capitalists and vote for the parties that they bankroll. Political action must take place on the ground, and political demands must be made from the bottom up, not the other way around! We cannot reform the World Thieves' Organization; it has been expressly designed to remove labor laws and environmental safety standards!!! The W.T.O. (and ultimately, the system that spawned it, capitalism) must be abolished if we are ever to solve the problems that gained attention during this protest. To "reform" the W.T.O. is to attempt to "reform" slavery; both capitalism and slavery (ironicly, whose modern character developed as a result of the growth of capitalism in England) rest on the exploitation of the laborer. Just as you cannot expect a master and his slaves to find common ground with one another and "compromise", you cannot (and should not) expect the working class and the bourgeosie (the capitalist class) to find common ground with one another and "work together as a team". That isn't to say that no compromises or deals should be reached between the two; workers need wage raises, health care and dental plans from their employers, and all actions to achieve this goal should be taken.

So under what circumstances should workers work with their bosses? Workers shouldn't kow-tow to pressure from their bosses, that kind of "compromise" is totally unacceptable; rather, bosses should compromise, capitulate, surrender, wave the white flag, kick the bucket and throw in the towel because the workers pressured them to do so, from the bottom up! If the union bureaucracy is too afraid to confront the bosses because they are comfortable with the status quo, then workers should take things into their own hands, and force the union bureaucracy to listen to their demands!

As Karl Marx once put it, "The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. Workers of the world, unite!"


1. Michael Albert, "A Q&A on the WTO, IMF, World Bank and activism," Z Magazine, Winter 2000, p. 26.
2. Mark Weisbrot, "Last Stop for Corporate Globalization: Seattle '99", ZNET,
3. Albert, "A Q&A..."
4. International Socialist Review, Issue 10, Winter 2000, p. 4.
5. Jeff Crosby, President of IUE Local 201, "Collateral Damage in Seattle", Z Magazine, p. 3. Z Magazine printed several eyewitness accounts of the Battle of Seattle. This is one of them.
6. Ibid.,
7. Josh Miner, December 1, "Two Days at Ground Zero," Z Magazine, Winter 2000, p. 2. Z Magazine printed several eyewitness accounts of the Battle of Seattle. This is one of them.
8. Ibid.,
9. David Sadoway, 2:26am, Wed, Dec 1, 1999, "Police Wallop Capitol Hill," i>Independent Media Center, . Independent Media Center (I.M.C.) is a website setup during the Battle of Seattle to counter the media's pro-W.T.O. pro-business lies about the protest. It's an awesome site filled with eyewitness accounts uploaded onto the site during the protest, and has lots of pictures and videos and even some audio stuff too. Check it out!
10. Steven Bodzin, 10:56pm, Tue, Nov. 30, 1999, "Sub-Lethal Weapons Hit the Streets," I.M.C., .
11. Seattle, Thu., Dec. 2, 1999, "WTO Protestors Brutalized in Detention", I.M.C., .
12. Bodzin, "Sub-Lethal Weapons..."
13. Socialist Worker, Sept. 24, 1999, #328. The SW is quoting the U.S. Department of Labor's estimate.
14. Janet Berkow, 11:07pm, Wed. Dec. 1, 1999, "Police Aggression Aimed at Nonviolent Protestors", I.M.C.,

About the author: Pham Binh is a junior attending Wilson Magnet High School. He studies poltics in his spare time, and is a member of the International Socialist Organization. 1